The Minister for the Environment has backed a Derry museum’s bid to win an award from Lottery Good Causes.
On Wednesday morning the SDLP’s Mark H Durkan visited the Aras Cholmcille Centre in the grounds of the Long Tower church and urged the people of Derry and the whole of the North to vote for the museum.
The St Columba Heritage Centre is the only Northern Ireland finalist in the National Lottery Awards (Heritage Category).
Hundreds of projects were eligible for the awards but only a handful got selected for the final.
“My department has backed Aras Cholmcille from the start when the first approach was made in 2002,” said Mark Durkan. “We have invested considerable money and effort in working with a very devoted group here to create the magnificent building in which are standing today,
“I believed that those efforts deserve recognition and this group are certainly worthy of this award.”
He said that the Department for the Environment is charged with protecting, preserving and promoting built heritage.
“We are blessed to have so much of that here in our city,” he said. “We are only a stone’s throw from the city’s walls which is a built heritage structure. When you have such dedicated groups of volunteers such as the committee here it makes it a pleasure for the department to work with them. My only regret is that we don’t have more money at this time to spend in this area.”
The Minister said that as well as preserving buildings such as the Aras Cholmcille - there is a knock-on effect for the local economy. “It has been established that for every pound you spend on built heritage you are creating another seven in the local economy,” he said.
He urged everyone across the North to get behind the centre. “Look what has been achieved here,” he said. “This building was literally falling apart. Everyone should vote.”
Centre manager Mairead Fox also asked the people of the city to vote for the centre.
“We need the people of the city to get behind us,” she said. “We are delighted to have the Minister here today to give us his backing. Get online and vote for us.”
The centre, which opened in June 2014, has so far attracted more than 1,600 visitors who have been able to view video material recreating the city as it was before the walls were erected. There is also a facsimile Book of Kells and range of other illuminated manuscripts dating from the 14th century. Large-scale illustrated books for children based on the legends about Columba have also been created. To vote log on to http://www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/project/%C3%A1ras-cholmcille-st-columba-heritage-centre